Edinburgh City Council has proposed that all its cultural grants for 2014/15, including those to its festivals and theatres, will be the same as for the current year.
Its recently published consultative budget lists proposed cuts across all sectors, but none in culture. This includes all festivals, such as the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe, as well as the city’s theatres and concert halls.
Councillor Richard Lewis, convener of the council’s culture and sport executive committee, told The Stage: “What we have announced is a standstill budget for the cultural companies. It comes in the context of an overall budget where there is a lot of pressure to find £120 million worth of cuts over the next four years.”
Lewis points out that the culture budget represents just over 1% of the city’s annual outgoings. This includes £4.6 million to Edinburgh’s festivals and £1.9 million to its year-round cultural organisations. He said that he had argued strongly against a proposed cut in the culture budget.
He added: “I hope one doesn’t have to argue in terms of the festivals’ huge economic success. They bring in about £260 million to the economy every year on a relatively modest investment, which is a staggering return.”
Although not receiving any reduction in their grant, managers of the city’s Usher Hall and Assembly rooms have been asked to increase income by £350,000 over the next four years.
Lewis said: “There is the prestige association with being a capital city. There are certain responsibilities that come with that. The proposed cut was not large, but it would have risked undermining confidence and been a reputational damage in an area which is hugely successful.”